As our kids move into the tween and teen years, we as parents need to be thinking more about allowing natural consequences be our kids’ teacher. Consequences help our kids become better critical thinkers while helping them own their choices. Our job is to create an environment where our kids will want to come talk with us about the poor decisions they’ve made so that we can help them choose more wisely next time and help them strategize how to avoid the mistake again.
Too often when we see deadlines or potential heartache ahead for our kids, we turn into the nagging parent. We point out the obvious over and over until our kids take action. Instead of being the parent that provides the safety net after our kids have made a mistake, we become the relentless motivator that frustrates our kids. When we do that we not only injure the relationship but also send the message that we are responsible for what is truly theirs to own.
Here’s the typical scenario:
On Monday we might say something like “Don’t you have a project due on Friday? You’d better get started on it.”
Then on Tuesday we nag them again.
On Wednesday we’re a little more forceful with our “You only have two days left to get your project done.”
And then by Thursday evening, we’re sitting at the kitchen table with them helping them get it finished so they can go to bed, meanwhile, letting them know how upset we are that they didn’t do it earlier. Words are said that we regret and out of our mouths come the words, “I told you so.”
And what has our kid learned?
- I can still get an A on a project even if I wait until the last minute because Mom will bail me out.
- Mom will always be there to remind me of the things I need to do.
- Mom gets upset when she has to help me with stuff and makes me feel like I’m not capable.
And do we think it will be any different next time there is a project due? Probably not.
If the goal is to teach responsibility and have relationship with our kids, maybe we should consider letting natural consequences be the teacher.
On Monday we might say something like, “Don’t you have a project due on Friday? Let me know if you want to brainstorm ideas.”
Then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday our job is to say nothing about the project. We’ve raised their awareness. We’ve offered our help. The ball is in their court.
And what does our kid learn?
- If I want a good grade I have to prepare ahead of time.
- My work is my responsibility.
- Mom is responsible for mom and I am responsible for me.
And if they get a bad grade on the project what should we do as parents?
- Offer empathy. “I’m so sorry you didn’t get the grade you wanted.” Spend lots of time here to build relationship and allow your child to feel heard.
- Ask your child what they might try to get a better outcome next time.
- Assure them that everyone makes mistakes in judgment and you know they’ll do better on the next project.
- Create relationship. Make sure you don’t say, “I told you so”.
Yes, it is hard to watch our kids do poorly on an assignment. But check out what scripture has to say about feeling the pain of poor choices.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
Isn’t that what we want for our our kids?
Dare you to focus on endurance, character, and hope of your kids becoming self-sufficient adults. Forget the nagging. Let natural consequences be the teacher.
“Let go…and let God”,